Relationship between SA, Israel sours; ‘hit rock bottom’


The relationship between South Africa and Israel has now reached an all-time low.

This according to Jaco Kleynhans, head of international liaison at the Solidarity Movement, who responded to South Africa’s decision to sue Israel at the International Court of Justice of the United Nations for “its acts of genocide in Gaza”.

Israel “rejected this case with disgust”.

Even though South Africa constantly maintains that the country takes a neutral position regarding conflicts elsewhere in the world, pres. Already in October, Cyril Ramaphosa and his ANC government announced their unequivocal support for Palestine and said that they stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

And while the government is constantly criticized for its failure to take a clear stance on the war between Ukraine and Russia, the ANC has sharply criticized Israel over the current conflict in the Gaza Strip, even though it still condemns all violence on all civilians – including Israeli civilians.

However, making an enemy of Israel can have far-reaching consequences for South Africa, says Kleynhans.

“While this can have significant consequences for trade and investments, the ripple effect is greater,” he says.

“South Africa’s foreign policy is increasingly being watched with a hawk’s eye by members of the American Congress in particular, but also European politicians.”

Kleynhans believes that South Africa’s “exaggerated reaction” to the conflict in the Gaza Strip and the terrorist group Hamas’s positive reaction to it confirms the perception among many Western leaders that South Africa is increasingly anti-Western.

It also creates the perception that South Africa has exchanged its position as a non-aligned country for close cooperation with countries such as Iran and Russia.

RNews reported earlier that South Africa’s cabinet decided during a special meeting on December 8 that the court should be approached to take action against Israel.

Clayson Monyela, the Department of Foreign Relations and Cooperation’s head of public diplomacy, said South Africa was gravely concerned about the plight of civilians caught up in the current Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip due to the “indiscriminate use of force and forced removal of residents”.

Fear deepens that war may break out

Meanwhile, fears and concerns are increasing that the war in the Gaza Strip could spread to other regions after Saleh al-Arouri, a founder of Hamas’s military wing, was killed in an airstrike in Beirut in Lebanon.

According to Kleynhans, Al-Arouri’s death confirms Israel’s determination to target Hamas leaders worldwide.

“Many senior Hamas leaders live in countries such as Lebanon and Qatar. The attack also confirms the continuing risk that the conflict in Gaza could escalate into a larger regional war. Hezbollah, an ally of Hamas, has enormous political influence in Lebanon and since Hamas’ attack on October 7 has already launched several attacks across the border from Lebanon on Israeli targets.

“Hezbollah possesses substantial military capacity and, like Hamas, is supported and supplied with weapons by Iran. The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is also an ally of Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran and has been threatening for weeks to carry out retaliatory attacks against Israel.”

Kleynhans says that Hamas’ October attack in the south of Israel was planned, among other things, by Al-Arouri in Beirut with the help of Hezbollah and Iran.

“So Israel had every right to target Al-Arouri. However, this still means that the chances increase that the current conflict in Gaza could spill over into a larger regional war in which at least Hezbollah from Lebanon could get involved. The role of groups in Syria, Iraq and Yemen that are all supported by Iran should also not be underestimated.”